Looking Within or Reaching Out?

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  • Included in: Politics and Religion, Volume 11, Issue 1
  • Published: March 1, 2018
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press

The proliferation of school choice policies has expanded schooling options for parents. While this trend coincides with a decline in private school enrollment, it is unclear how these policies affect enrollment among various religious traditions and religiosity. We study the impact of religion and school choice initiatives on the decision to enroll in different types of private schools in this new era. We evaluate two concurrent theories on the role of religion in the enrollment trends of private schools. Religious school enrollment may be motivated by (1) the desire to transmit a religious social identity, or (2) the secular goods associated with religious-based education. Using state-level data, we test these two explanations by estimating fixed effects regression models predicting private school market shares between 1993–2011 among different religious groups. We find support for both theories, particularly for a robust private school market aided by school choice policies.


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